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People take their food and wine seriously here. Small town farms and chic urban eateries comprise just a fraction of the menus available in Nevada County. Guests can find everything from authentic Cornish pasties to bison osso bucco and organic polenta. From the foothills to the Sierra Crest, chefs, restaurateurs, and kitchen crusaders are selecting ingredients and cultivating farm-to-table mentalities that show in every spoonful.
Delectable and laid back is the unspoken mantra that threads these restaurants together. Whether you’re coming off the slopes or have front-row seats at the Center for the Arts, it’s a-come-as-you-are invitation to nearly every dining room. Those dining rooms range from classic diner counters and expansive decks to intimate bistros and flourishing gardens.
More than a dozen wineries have made the foothills of Nevada County their home, joining Amador, El Dorado, Napa and Sonoma counties. Even Truckee chimes in on the oenophile options with the Truckee River Winery, which has taken advantage of the high elevation and colder temps for more than 20 years. Down the mountain and skirting the communities of Grass Valley, Nevada City, and Penn Valley, wineries have been producing an abundance of distinct, award-winning varietals for decades.
While many wineries keep their doors open for those exploring the countryside, local tasting rooms have been thriving in downtown Grass Valley and Nevada City. Sierra Starr Vineyard was one of the first wineries to open their doors on Main Street, Grass Valley. It has been followed by Lucchesi Winery, Smith Vineyard and Avanguardia. Downtown Nevada City is home to Clavey Vineyards, Nevada City Winery and Szabo Vineyards.
For a chance to sample wines on site or potentially tour facilities, head out Highway 174 towards Colfax where you’ll find Solune Winery with shady picnic areas and Montoliva Vineyard’s Tuscan-inspired fountains and herb gardens. North of Nevada City is where the Double Oak Vineyard’s family farm features the water colors and photography of local artists. Pilot Peak, located in Penn Valley, offers one of the area’s most picturesque tasting locations and Sierra Knolls, just south of Grass Valley, sits upon scenic acres with overlooks and picnic areas. Its Bear River Tasting Room is on Hwy. 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley.
The food is fresh and seasonal. Sometimes simple. Sometimes riding a creative wave of flavors – but always delectable. Restaurants are nestled in historic hotels, renovated warehouses or restored garages, but there’s always more than meets the eye. Peruse through a cozy café’s menu and you might find Thai duck tacos or organic lamb burgers. Cuisine runs the international gamut from Japanese, Mexican, and Thai to Swiss and Italian. There are gourmet burgers galore and even a nod to New Orleans nosh.
Not impressive enough for you? The national media begs to differ. The omelettes of Truckee’s unassuming Squeeze Inn faced off in a “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Stroll down the street to Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats and you may find yourself seated at Sir Paul McCartney’s favorite booth.
But whatever you hunger for, whether it’s a down-home steak or a purely organic creation, Nevada County restaurants will please your palate.
Nevada County Farms
From prolific one-acre vegetable gardens to expansive multi-generational farms and ranches, Nevada County is ripe with tasty culinary fodder. Nevada County is keeping step – and then some – with the national trend toward locally sourced, organic produce, which goes far beyond the county’s signature apples. Here in Nevada County local growers cultivate heirloom vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, seedlings, beans, flowers, honey, nuts, eggs, free-range chicken and grass-fed lamb.
Foodie visitors can transform a simple quest for fresh produce into a lively and educational field trip to Nevada County where fruit stands, farmer’s markets and you-pick opportunities abound.
Many farms operate on-site stands, sell through local markets, and play an integral role in many chefs’ creations. Most all can be found at farmer’s markets that run May through October in Penn Valley, Nevada City, and Truckee Regional Park. And don’t miss a visit to Grass Valley’s Thursday evening Mill Street Market and Saturday morning market at the historic Northstar House.
Those hungry for a more hands-on experience can pick their own cherries, peaches, berries, and lavender. Aspiring green thumbs can take a course in beekeeping or how to design an herb garden. The season kicks off in May and peaks in the fall with apples and pumpkins and a month-long harvest festival at Bierwagen’s Donner Trail Fruit where families and schools come to collect their future jack-o-lanterns. Winter completes the cycle with Christmas tree farms opening their gates for the holidays.